I hope you had a good long weekend and enjoyed your hot cross buns, whether they were halaal or not.
A reader of my last MyNews24 article commented:
"The fact that you are offended by so many things yet don't speak out makes me think you don't want to share your beliefs with others. Why? You can't get offended at someone if they don't know your beliefs."
I had covered my beliefs briefly in the same article as follows:
"Paganism is about living in harmony with Nature. Pagans are people of the earth not people of the book."
Obviously that did not do the trick, and seeing as someone asked I will try to expand on this. Note that Pagans do not generally feel the need to share their personal beliefs with others or convert others to their religion.
My statements about Pagans are general. There are plenty of exceptions. There are no central rules or authorities. Pagans have the right and responsibility to think for themselves and their beliefs vary.
One of the best explanations I have read about Paganism is attributed to Pagan author Edain McCoy:
"When one defines oneself as Pagan, it means she or he follows an earth or nature religion, one that sees the divine manifest in all creation. The cycles of nature are our holy days, the earth is our temple, its plants and creatures our partners and teachers. We worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be. We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept the sacredness of all creation."
I personally define Paganism as a religious movement embracing earth-centred spiritual traditions that celebrate the sacred circle of life and teach us to live in harmony with Nature and each other. I define a Pagan as someone who self-identifies as a Pagan.
Pagans generally believe that Nature is sacred and our greatest teacher. Beliefs in God or the Divine vary all the way from atheism to hard polytheism. Many Pagans believe that the Divine is both male and female, a God and a Goddess. Personally, I believe that the universe and everything in it is made of the same Divine essence, even the News24 trolls and bigots pretending to be good people. I don't believe that God is a man or a woman, and I view gods and goddesses as archetypes.
Pagans do not generally believe in sin, Satan, the Devil or eternal damnation in Hell. Pagans do not generally believe that anyone's death lets us off the hook for our wrongdoings. Pagans generally believe in karma, i.e. you reap what you sow.
Many Pagans believe in reincarnation, life after death and life after life.
Like most religions, we have sacred symbols. The solar cross or solar wheel is an ancient sacred symbol, representing among other things the Sun and the seasons of the year. The Pagan pentacle, a five-pointed star within a circle, is another sacred Pagan symbol representing the five elements of life and the Divine above manifesting as earth, water, air and fire below.
Many Pagans all over the world identify themselves as Witches and their religion as Wicca or Witchcraft. The previously pejorative terms of "pagan" and "witch" have been reappropriated in order to eliminate negative stereotypes used as weapons to stigmatize people who do not belong to mainstream religions and to identify people as scapegoats in superstitious communities. Do not confuse real Witches with the negative stereotype that dates back to the shameful genocide of so-called heretics instigated by the Catholic Church, or with people who do not identify themselves as such. South Africans are still killed or sent into exile on a regular basis as a result of witchcraft accusations. These so-called witch hunts are seldom about actual witchcraft however one defines it. Indiscriminately labelling a person such as a murderer, an animal abuser or any other criminal as a witch portrays witches in general as a danger to society, and should be avoided to protect the dignity and safety of self-identified witches and also persons who are accused of being witches. If you claim to be a good person, you will choose your words carefully to help bring an end to this madness.
For me personally the Bible is a book of fiction, history and poetry. Quoting from the Bible as a response to my beliefs only means that someone is incapable of thinking for themselves.
Based on the following reader comments, it seems that some Christians are not aware of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution:
"We are supposed to be a Christian state that is tolerant of other religions"
"When you become the majority then you can decide for all in this country"
The Bill of Rights states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion."
We are not supposed to be a Christian state. We are supposed to be a secular democracy with freedom of religion. Those in the majority are not entitled to greater freedom than those in the minority.
Some say that the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion among other freedoms, but I don't necessarily agree. We have the right to freedom of religion in theory only, and have to fight for it in practice. Some of our laws still contradict freedom of religion, and I expect they will be changed in due course when the legal resources become available (I understand that the South African Law Reform Commission has limited resources).
Fundamentalist Christians mock us and fundamentalist atheists mock us, so we obviously didn't choose this path to gain popularity. (I will concede that there is no such thing as fundamentalist atheists when they stop telling me what to think and believe.) Nevertheless I hope that this explanation is helpful to some readers. I would like to thank all the trolls in advance for adding to my article views and comment count.